Shining light on graphene sensors

January 10, 2011
A light-sensitive graphene/polymer heterostructure.

National Physical Laboratory, together with an international team of scientists, have published research showing how light can be used to control graphene's electrical properties. This advance is an important step towards developing highly sensitive graphene-based electronic devices.

Graphene is an extraordinary two-dimensional material made of a single atomic layer of carbon atoms. It is the thinnest material known to man, and yet is one of the strongest ever tested.

It has unique properties which make it a very exciting material for a huge range of applications from high-speed electronics and , to super-sensors capable of detecting single molecules of toxic gases.

It is able to act as a sensor because its entire structure is exposed to its surroundings, and it reacts to any molecules that touch its surface. This reaction causes graphene's electrical properties to alter, i.e. it senses the molecules' presence.

In their paper published in the Journal of Advanced Materials, the team show that when is coated with light-sensitive polymers its unique can be precisely controlled and therefore exploited.

The polymers also protect graphene from contamination.

Light-modified graphene chips have already been used at NPL in ultra-precision experiments to measure the quantum of the electrical resistance.

In the future similar polymers could be used to effectively 'translate' information from their surroundings and influence how graphene behaves. This effect could be exploited to develop robust reliable sensors for smoke, poisonous gases, or any targeted molecule.

Explore further: Light-speed nanotech: Controlling the nature of graphene

More information: Read paper: 'Non-volatile Photo-Chemical Gating of an Epitaxial Graphene-Polymer Heterostructure' in the Journal of Advanced Materials.

Related Stories

Light-speed nanotech: Controlling the nature of graphene

January 21, 2009

Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have discovered a new method for controlling the nature of graphene, bringing academia and industry potentially one step closer to realizing the mass production of graphene-based ...

Producing graphene layers using crystallization

March 2, 2010

( -- Ever since it's relatively recent discovery, graphene has generated a great deal of interest. Graphene is extracted from graphite in many cases, and consists of a sheet of carbon atoms bound together in a ...

A huge step toward mass production of graphene

March 10, 2010

Scientists have leaped over a major hurdle in efforts to begin commercial production of a form of carbon that could rival silicon in its potential for revolutionizing electronics devices ranging from supercomputers to cell ...

Doping graphene

June 1, 2010

An organic molecule that has been found to be effective in making silicon-based electronics may be viable for building electronics on sheets of carbon only a single molecule thick. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute ...

UH professor taking next step with graphene research

October 19, 2010

The 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics went to the two scientists who first isolated graphene, one-atom-thick crystals of graphite. Now, a researcher with the University of Houston Cullen College of Engineering is trying to develop ...

Recommended for you

Physicists develop new technique to fathom 'smart' materials

November 26, 2015

Physicists from the FOM Foundation and Leiden University have found a way to better understand the properties of manmade 'smart' materials. Their method reveals how stacked layers in such a material work together to bring ...

Mathematicians identify limits to heat flow at the nanoscale

November 24, 2015

How much heat can two bodies exchange without touching? For over a century, scientists have been able to answer this question for virtually any pair of objects in the macroscopic world, from the rate at which a campfire can ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

5 / 5 (1) Jan 10, 2011
How large can a graphene layer be made? Will it be a future material in for example the automotive industry and places other than micro electronics?
not rated yet Jan 10, 2011
I'd wondered the same thing myself.

From what I've seen so far, looks like single-layers are maxing around 1cm, however multi-layers are being manufactured much larger.. Wiki shows that Korean researchers were making 30 inch wafers.

I'm totally NOT an expert on the subject, and it's a rapidly evolving tech. So if anybody has better numbers or info, please chime in..

Exciting stuff, this pencil-lead, hehe..

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.